LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Researchers say this is going to be a rough summer for ticks with activity on the rise across the nation.
Anna Pasternak is a Ph.D. candidate and Assistant Researcher with the University of Kentucky. She's surveyed and collected data as a part of the Kentucky Tick Surveillance Program since 2019.
"What we're doing is trying to, on a statewide scale, is not only understand the different tick species that are here, but where they're found, what kind of counties and what kind of habitats that they are maybe more abundant than in others," said Pasternak.
"We're also doing some pathogen testing to detect, the bacteria that causes Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme disease for example, in those tick populations so that we can understand the distribution of those pathogens and overall have a better understanding of what areas of Kentucky are at risk for what kind of diseases, their exposure to ticks, and methods to control," said Pasternak.
Pasternak says the state provides a pretty perfect home for ticks.
"Kentucky is really just a very ticky place. You know, it's really hot, it's really humid, we have a lot of forest habitats and grassland, really strong wildlife populations and then a lot of free-ranging livestock to act as food for ticks," she explained.
The three most common in Kentucky are the black-legged, lone star, and American dog ticks.
Lone Stars are vectors of the bacteria that causes Ehrlichiosis.
American Dog ticks are primary vectors that cause Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Pasternak says they like grassland or open prairie as opposed to a dense forest and seem to prefer dogs.
Ticks can also be very small, which is why she says it's important to thoroughly check yourself and your pet.
"If you were to find, say we have a little tick on Joie's paw here, you want to take some tweezers and grab as close to the skin as you can. You would just pull straight up until the tick lets go. A lot of people think that the tick will not let go, that you need to twist it. You do not need to do that. That can cause the mouth parts to break, and the mouth parts will still be embedded in the skin," said Pasternak.
She says not to try home remedies.
Here are some tips she says you can try:
- avoid walking through uncut fields
- use repellent with 20-30% DEET
- treat clothing with permethrin
- wear long clothes to cover skin
- check yourself, children, and pets every 2-3 hours
Ticks can cause several diseases.
According to the CDC, anaplasmosis is one of the most common tick-borne illnesses across the U.S.
Kentucky also sees cases of ehrlichiosis, spotted fever, and Lyme disease.
Practically all of these illnesses result in fever, headaches, and muscle aches.
Some also cause gastrointestinal problems as well as rashes.
Left unchecked, they all also become deadly.